MLB player Mark Buerhle and his family can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to finding a place to live with Slater, their 2-year-old American Staffordshire terrier.
Last year, Slater made news after Buerhle signed a four-year contract with the Miami Marlins in a city with a breed ban. The Buerhles got around that one by living roughly 30 minutes away in Broward County, where they were outspoken advocates for adoption and ending breed specific legislation (BSL).
In November, Buerhle was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, where once again Slater found himself unwelcome thanks to a provision banning pit bulls in Ontario’s Dog Owner’s Liability Act (DOLA), which went into effect in 2005.
The Buerhles were faced with a few options: Live across the border in the U.S., let someone else care for Slater for the season or Jamie Buerhle, the kids and three other family dogs could stay 800 miles behind with Slater.
According to ESPN, the last option was the obvious choice for the Buehrles.
“We’re not trying to make people feel sorry for us,” said Buehrle. “Obviously they’re going to say, ‘You make a lot of money. Boo-hoo.’ I know it’s part of baseball and every person deals with it, but this is our first time being away from each other all season. We’re going to travel and see each other and make it work. But those nights when we have a Sunday day game and I can go home and have dinner with the family and give the kids a bath and put them to bed, that’s what I’m going to miss.”
“A lot of people have said, ‘We’ll just keep Slater for you,’” Jamie added. “To me, that would be like if we moved somewhere that only allowed boys. I wouldn’t leave my daughter behind. Six or seven months is a lot of time. Slater would adjust. He’s real easygoing. But I don’t want him to bond with someone else. He’s our dog. That wasn’t really an option.”
Fortunately for the Buerhles, and Slater, they have the resources to deal the situation, but many others aren’t so lucky. Since the breed ban has been enacted, more than 1,000 innocent pit bulls have been torn from their families and killed. Animal advocates and pit bull lovers in Ontario have been fighting unsuccessfully to have the breed ban repealed and, while attempts have been unsuccessful so far, they have been getting support.
Last spring, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), published an open letter to all three of Ontario’s political party leaders, including Premier Dalton McGuinty, supporting the passage of Bill 16, which would remove breed specific provisions from the DOLA. The OVMA supported a science-based approach for repealing it and argued that it is obviously not effective in preventing bites since the overall number of dog bites has not declined since the ban was put in place Bite prevention education is a far better method for keeping the public safe.
According to the National Canine Research Council, there has been only one dog bite-related fatality involving a pit bull in Canada since 1964 and the description reads “drunken roommate provoked dogs.”
Others argue that breed bans are costly, difficult to enforce and also require dogs to be identified by breed, which can be nearly impossible to do accurately based on looks. Try it yourself.
As for Slater, he’s doing a pretty good job giving pit bulls a good name and illustrating why breed bans are so incredibly ridiculous. He’s already a Canine Good Citizen and working towards becoming a therapy dog.
“I don’t think everyone should own a pit bull, just like I don’t think everyone should own a Lab or a poodle or a Chihuahua,” said Jamie. “I think you should be responsible for whatever dog you choose. If you tether a Lab outside in your backyard all the time and treat it cruelly, I can guarantee it will be aggressive. People need to realize that. And if you do that, you should be held responsible.”
Hopefully, logic will eventually prevail in Ontario and the breed ban will be repealed.
Photo credit: stephskardal